Talking to terrorists

Honest Reporting has a piece today about “the recent spate of Hamas op-eds in mainstream newspapers, including the Washington Post, New York Times and LA Times”. This time the Washington Post has published an article by Hezbollah’s Sheik Muhammed Hussein Fadlallah, in which he claims that the concept of Jihad in Islam is “no different than any human and civilized concept of self-defense”. In reality, Hezbollah has used the flimsiest of pretexts to disguise its aggression against Israel as self-defense.

The question which comes to my mind at this point is “why are Hamas and Hezbollah suddenly so popular in our media?” And the answer is that they have press agents that they are paying to make them popular.

There seems to be an ongoing attempt in the US to make these groups appear as moderate potential partners for negotiation. So-called ‘realists’ argue that the conflicts — both the narrow Israeli-Palestinian one and the broader confrontation between the West and radical Islam can’t be solved without talking to the Islamist organizations.

Nobody respectable has suggested (yet) that the US should talk to al-Qaeda. Most Americans would react to the idea with profound revulsion, understanding that there cannot be enough common ground to support negotiation with people whose goal is to kill many of us and create enough chaos to cause our society and nation to collapse.

Hezbollah and Hamas are perceived here as primarily enemies of Israel (although Hezbollah has certainly killed enough Americans), so many Americans ask “why not talk to them — it never hurts to talk”.

The problem with talking is twofold. First, negotiating confers legitimacy and status, regardless of whether there is anything to negotiate. Hamas and Hezbollah leaders should be treated as outlaws, not statesmen or diplomats. It’s almost as if the more murderous they are, the more respectable they are seen to be.

Second, negotiation is not talking about the weather. It’s a process of give and take, in which each side promises to make a concession in return for the other side’s giving something. This can only work if there is an intersection between both sides’ minimal acceptable outcomes. But there’s no intersection between “Israel exists” and “Israel doesn’t exist”. So a negotiation process cannot end the conflict.

Historically, US-mediated negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians (for example) have resulted in US pressure on Israel to make concessions, and mostly — but not in every case — Israeli compliance. The Palestinians, on the other hand, generally did not comply. So when the negotiations broke down Israel was in a far worse position than before, not to mention the damage done by propaganda painting her as at fault.

There is plenty of reason, therefore, to not talk to organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas, with whom there can be no intersection of interests. Unfortunately, the solution to the problems they pose must be a military one. The more concessions that they extract by diplomatic means, the more difficult will be the ultimate confrontation — which will come about regardless of diplomacy, negotiations, mediation, or whatever.

Hamas’ Abu Marzouk, Hezbollah’s Fadlallah and others may sound reasonable to those who do not know the history of the conflict or the true nature of the groups they represent. The NY Times, Washington Post, LA Times, etc. are not serving the cause of peace by giving them a platform from which to speak.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.